77.5% – or 2.7 million tons – of steel packaging was recycled in 2015, according to the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (Apeal). This means steel is the most recycled packaging material in Europe. In the countries ranking the Netherlands leads the pack with a rate of 95.5%, followed by Belgium at 93.2%. Germany is ranked third overall with a total of 90.7% of recycled packaging material.
Thanks to the good recyclability of metal packaging the industry can achieve what is known as closed loop recycling. Close to 100% of the material can be recycled without any quality losses. This makes for a good environmental footprint for steel packaging.
The recycling rates of steel packaging are rising throughout Europe. Photo: Apeal
Thanks to the good recyclability of metal packaging the industry can achieve what is known as closed loop recycling. Close to 100% of the material can be recycled without any quality losses. This makes for a good environmental footprint for steel packaging. Alexander Mohr, General Secretary at Apeal, explains the position of metal recycling on the market: “Thanks to its magnetic properties steel can be filtered out of large quantities of waste without great difficulty. (...) The industry has worked hard to reach this stage and has shown foresight by investing in innovation. Furthermore, a great deal of work is needed to educate consumers and brands.” He is optimistic about reaching his self-declared goal of achieving an 80% recycling rate throughout Europe by 2020.
In addition to advantages in recycling metal packaging is also particularly convenient for consumers. Foodstuffs in tin cans keep easily for several years without needing additional preservatives. Special cooking methods mean products keep for longer. Apart from offering consumers convenience the air-tight sealed containers can also contribute to combatting food losses.
With metal packaging very small sizes and convenient opening options are very much on trend. Photo: Eisenhans / www.fotolia.com
To improve the packaging’s eco footprint even further the steel industry is working consistently on making the walls of the packaging even thinner and thereby even lighter. Compared with the mid-80s drinks cans today are about 30% thinner – at just a little over 0.2 mm thick. For some foodstuffs there is even material that is just 0.1 mm thin. This saves space and weight in production, storage and transportation.